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Georgia State unanimous pick to win Sun Belt

The Georgia State men’s basketball is the unanimous pick to win the Sun Belt by the league’s coaches, the conference announced on Thursday.

R.J. Hunter, last year’s Sun Belt player of the year, was picked to repeat and Ryan Harrow made the preseason first-team. Center Curtis Washington was selected to the preseason third team.

Georgia State went 17-1 in the Sun Belt last year, falling to Louisiana-Lafayette in the finals of the conference tournament. The Ragin Cajuns, with two starters returning, were picked to finish second.

The Panthers return three starters from that squad, led by Hunter, who averaged 18.3 points per game with a conference-high 100 3-pointers.

Joining him are Harrow, who was also first-team all-conference last year after averaging 17.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. Washington averaged 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with a team-leading 78 blocks.

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Joining Hunter and Harrow on the first team are Georgia Southern’s Jelani Hewitt, Lafayette’s Shawn Long and Texas-Arlington’s Lonnie McClanahan.

If the Panthers are to defend their title and fulfill the preseason prediction, coach Ron Hunter will have to find a way to replace the production of point guard Devonta White and forward Manny Atkins, who used up their eligibility last year. The duo combined to score 26 points. Atkins had the highest 3-point shooting percentage (43.4) among the starters and White led the team in assists (147).

The team was boosted by addition of Louisville transfer Kevin Ware, who suffered a high ankle sprain during practice earlier this week. There is no timetable for his return. Other new players include a pair of true freshmen in Jordan Session and Jeff Thomas, as well as the return of David Travers, a back-up point guard two years ago who didn’t play last year.

The Panthers will open the season hosting Tennessee Temple on Nov. 14 at the Sports Arena. The Sun Belt schedule will begin with the Panthers hosting Louisiana-Monroe on Dec. 30.

Preseason Coaches Poll

(First place votes in parenthesis)

Rank Team Points (1st Place Votes)

1. Georgia State 121 (11)

2. Louisiana- Lafayette 110

3. Arkansas-Little Rock 94

4. Texas-Arlington 75

5. Arkansas State 73

6. Louisiana-Monroe 69

7. Texas State 43

8. Troy 42

t-9. Georgia Southern 38

South Alabama 38

11. Appalachian State 23

Preseason Player of the Year

R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, junior, guard)

Preseason First Team All-Conference

Jelani Hewitt (Georgia Southern, senior, guard)

Ryan Harrow (Georgia State, senior, guard)

R.J. Hunter (Georgia State, junior, guard)

Shawn Long (Louisiana-Lafayette, senior, forward)

Lonnie McClanahan (Texas-Arlington, senior, guard)

Preseason Second Team All-Conference

Josh Hagins (Arkansas-Little Rock, junior, guard)

James White (Arkansas-Little Rock, junior, forward)

Xavian Rimmer (Louisiana-Lafayette, senior, guard)

Tylor Ongwae (Louisiana-Monroe, senior, forward)

Emani Grant (Texas State, junior, forward)

Preseason Third Team All-Conference

Tab Hamilton (Appalachian State, senior, guard)

Trent Wiedeman (Georgia Southern, senior, guard)

Curtis Washington (Georgia State, senior, forward)

Jamel Outler (Texas-Arlington, senior, guard)

Kevin Thomas (Troy, senior, forward)

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